Chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Chemo comes in different forms and may be taken several ways. The word "chemo" conjures up a variety of images, but most people think only of intravenous chemo -- an IV line going into a patient's arm, dripping powerful drugs from a bag hung on a pole. For breast cancer, chemo may be taken as a shot, a pill, or through an IV line.
Take Breast Cancer Chemo As Shots, Pills, and IVs
Injection: Drugs to kill cancer or boost blood counts may be given as a shot (injection) into muscle or fat tissue. For intramuscular injections, your arm, hip, or leg may be used as the target for the shot. But if you're having an injection into fatty tissue, the shot could go beneath the skin of your arm, tummy, or leg. Examples of injectable drugs are: Procrit and Neulasta.
Intravenous (IV): Large doses of chemotherapy can be given slowly through intravenous drip lines. An IV chemo treatment is also called an infusion, and can be given through a short-term IV needle connected to a catheter (tube), through an implanted catheter such a PICC line, or through an infusion port located beneath your skin. For some chemotherapy drugs, infusion pumps may be used to control the flow of the drug into your bloodstream. Examples of intravenous chemo drugs are: Adriamycin, Taxol, and Ixempra.
Oral: Chemotherapy drugs also come in the form of pills, tablets, and capsules. These are taken orally (by mouth) according to a set schedule. Examples of oral chemo drugs include: Xeloda and Cytoxan tablets.
No matter which form of chemotherapy you take, be sure to stay on schedule in order to get the most benefit from your treatment. Most chemo drugs will cause some side effects, but there are effective medications that can greatly reduce unwanted symptoms. Talk with your doctor or nurse to get help with chemo drugs and their side effects.
Oral Chemotherapy: What You Need to Know. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 05/08/2008.
Questions and Answers About Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy and You: Support for People With Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Last Updated Posted: 06/29/2007.